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Politics
PUNDITOLOGY: Commentators Try To Make Sense Of The Rob Ford Crack Admission
November 6, 2013
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(Photo: CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young)

So Rob Ford has smoked crack. Yesterday, the Toronto mayor admitted as much to reporters in an impromptu press conference before offering a formal statement where he apologized for his "mistakes" and vowed they would "never, ever, ever happen again." He also said he'd stay in power until the next municipal election, on October 27, 2014: "I want the people of this city to decide if they want Rob Ford to be their mayor."

So now what?

Below, a roundup of articles and video clips to help you put the crack admission in context.

Robyn Doolitle, one of the two Toronto Star reporters who broke the news of the tape's existence in May, wrote this play-by-play account of how they got the tape. Here's how it all started:

It was 9 a.m. Easter morning. I was lying in bed, trying to sleep in, when my cellphone started to ring. I grimaced. No one but my dad would be calling so early on a holiday.

[...]

“Robyn speaking,” I muttered.

“I need to meet with you,” said a deep voice I’d never heard before.

“Okay. What about?”

There was a pause.

“I have some information I think you’d like to see,” he said. “I don’t want to talk about it on the phone.”

And John Cruickshank, the Star's publisher, wrote this column about the ethical quandary of quoting a political figure whom you believe is attempting to deceive your readers:

The Toronto Star has repeatedly quoted Ford denying the existence of a damaging drug video. We have quoted him denying that he has smoked crack cocaine.

But our reporters had seen the notorious cocaine video and knew that he was seeking to deceive Torontonians.

Were we unfair to our readers in allowing the mayor to practise his deceptions on them? Are journalism’s conventions too restrictive in an era when some leaders use lies and manipulative spin as basic tools to tighten their grip on power?

In the Winnipeg Free Press, Christopher Flavelle writes about Toronto's concern about its international image in the wake of the scandal:

That concern says more about Toronto, and by extension Canada, than Ford's crack video. Canada's largest city, where I grew up, is a sprawling, crowded, diverse, fabulously wealthy and increasingly exciting place. It's Canada's New York City (the nation's finance capital), San Francisco (technology) and Los Angeles (entertainment) put together, and is by almost every measure a world-class city. There's only one thing holding it back: An adolescent's obsession over what other people think of it.

It's hard to find anyone outright supporting Ford, but some, like Mike Strobel in the Toronto Sun, argue that if he just stepped aside for a while and got help, he'd win back the support of his base:

If Ford was smart, he’d go away a month or two — for the sake of family, the city, himself.

Imagine all those hugs from Ford Nation. Its flawed champion, off to heal his wounds. Bonus: He shuts up all those lecturing, holier-than-thou wannabe psychiatrists.

In the Globe and Mail, Bob Rae had some harsh words about the effect that the crack scandal has had on the city's politics:

It is Rob Ford’s personal tragedy. He needs to deal with it. But he doesn’t need to drag the rest of us down with him. The mayor has challenged the executive of the City to either support him or resign. They should resign. Otherwise they are simply enabling the mayor. There is more in this story to come. The mayor has refused to resign so far, but eventually his position becomes untenable.

We need to take back Toronto from this self-indulgent soap opera. Rob Ford needs help, and he should find it. He seeks forgiveness, and this none of us should deny. But that does not mean he gets to run the show.

Some of Ford's supporters have argued that the mayor is being unfairly pilloried, especially compared to the reaction over Justin Trudeau's admission that he'd smoked pot while he was in office. Over on Yahoo News, Andy Radia considers that charge:

Journalists, pundits, citizens and politicians of all political stripes have since been calling on the mayor to either resign or to step down and get help.

But 'wait a minute,' some in Ford Nation decry, 'what about Liberal leader Justin Trudeau's admission to smoking pot while in office. Why aren't you asking for him to step down.'

Clinton Yates in the Washington Post offers the weary perspective of a citizen who's lived through the crack scandal of D.C. mayor Marion Barry:

News of a crack-smoking mayor does not make me laugh. That’s because I remember exactly where I was when I found out that my mayor had done the same thing. And it forever changed my feelings about the powers of addiction, drug abuse and power.

And if you haven't read it, this classic 1993 New York Times article by Michael Kelly on the invention of modern political spin provides an interesting perspective on the news of the last few months:

In this new faith, it has come to be held that what sort of person a politician actually is and what he actually does are not really important. What is important is the perceived image of what he is and what he does. Politics is not about objective reality, but virtual reality. What happens in the political world is divorced from the real world. It exists for only the fleeting historical moment, in a magical movie of sorts, a never-ending and infinitely revisable docudrama. Strangely, the faithful understand that the movie is not true -- yet also maintain that it is the only truth that really matters.

After all that heady reading, how about a few funny videos about the situation? First up: Jeremy Irons. When the actor was in the red chair recently, he talked to George about Rob Ford, and admitted he feels empathy toward the mayor.

In the studio yesterday, Elvira Kurt joined a pair of U.S. comics — Alonzo Bodden and Orny Adams — to talk about politics and lying:

Tune in to CBC on November 21 to catch the full panel.

For the second night in a row, the U.S. late night shows had a field day with Ford. In a five-minute segment, Stephen Colbert explained the difference between a crack smoker and a mere social crack smoker:

Jimmy Kimmel's team produced this infomercial on how to tell if your mayor is smoking crack:

And in his opening monologue, Craig Ferguson, who's spoken candidly about his own problems with alcohol, addressed the mayor's comments about his "drunken stupor":

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